Fredericksburg Families

Amy Umble writes about family issues and kid-friendly events.

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In search of a good night’s sleep

When I see this face, I believe those studies that link “crying it out” to emotional trauma later in life.

I would sell my first-born child for a good night’s sleep right about now.

Well, actually, my third-born child. She is, after all, the reason I’m not getting any z’s these days.

I’ve been studying studies about sleep deprivation, trying to see if it goes away at some point. Perhaps your body just eventually realizes it’s never going to get any sleep ever again.

If so, I hope it happens soon. Sleep deprivation is wreaking havoc with my life. I’ve locked myself–and the baby–out of the house; driven all the way to work with her car seat still in the car; and bumped into furniture so often that I’m waiting for people to ask about my constant bruises.

Sadly, medical research shows that while your body can get used to sleep deprivation, your mind won’t, according to WebMD.

In my quest for a restful night, I’ve become obsessed with advice for getting your baby to sleep like–well, like a baby. But not my baby. No one wants to sleep like she does.

When it comes to sleeping, there are pretty much two philosophies: the crying it out method or the no-tears way.

And let me tell you, people have definite ideas on which one you should try. People say they stay out of other people’s bedrooms. But that’s not the case when there’s a baby in that bedroom.

And it’s apparently not a matter to take lightly. Depending on who you talk to, I’m either damaging my child for life by letting her cry herself to sleep. Or I’m setting her up to be a wuss who still lives in our basement when she’s 40.

It’s not just opinionated strangers at the grocery store or rampant online commenters who have something to say about this. There are numerous scientific studies on the topic. And they’re not any clearer.

There this study from Temple University, which says that babies who wake in the middle of the night show more signs of irritability, and their mothers are more likely to be depressed. The study concludes that letting babies cry themselves to sleep is the best method.

But then this study from researchers at the University of Texas and Johns Hopkins University found that babies who cry themselves to sleep have higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol, even after they learned to soothe themselves to sleep. I’m thinking this study might be the most useful, though. If I read it to Harper, it should put her to sleep much more effectively that “Goodnight Moon” does.  The title alone is longer than some of her books: Asynchrony of mother–infant hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis activity following extinction of infant crying responses induced during the transition to sleep.

I’m torn between the two opinions. Crying it out sounds good when you read the sleep training books. It doesn’t sound so good in practice. Let me tell you, Harper’s circadian rhythms might be off but her lungs are just fine.

And the methods don’t address the real sleep problem in our house. See, we can get Harper to sleep through the night just fine. As long as she’s not in her crib. She sleeps beautifully in her swing, even though the motor broke on Christmas Day. And she slumbers well if she’s in bed with me and my husband.

If Fisher Price could just make these swings in a larger size, we’d be getting a good night’s sleep.

However, she’s fast outgrowing her swing. And while Harper sleeps great in between her parents, we don’t fare as well. She kicks and claws us in her sleep–and she also talks in her sleep, which was cute the first night but not so much anymore.

We’ve let her fall asleep on our bed, then tried to transfer her to the crib. We’ve let her sleep for 20 minutes, an hour, two hours, each time assuming that this time, she’d be fast asleep enough to move. We’ve ever so gently picked her up, tiptoed to the crib and carefully placed her on her pink gingham sheet. And every single time, her big blue eyes pop open and she screeches.

We’ve let her cry it out in her crib twice. Although we caved before she fell asleep. Every minute of crying it out feels like an hour. And Harper showed no signs of calming down. She starts hyperventilating and screaming with the anguish of an abandoned child.

For the most part, we don’t mind rocking her to sleep or snuggling with her at night. Harper is our third child–and she came 14 years after our second. We are well aware that in just a few years she won’t even want a goodnight kiss from us. And unlike the crying-it-out time, those years will pass like seconds.

Still, we need to find a solution. Before my sleep-deprived state makes me do something really crazy.




  • Wendy Burton

    My 7 month old son is the same way. My husband and I have tried everything to get him to sleep in his crib. We have just come to the conclusion that our sleep will not go back to normal for quite some time.

  • PDMeadows

    I think there are a lot of young parents out there who feel your pain!  I kept my 2 year old grandson and 7 mo. old granddaughter last night to allow my daughter/son-in-law to get a much needed, good nights sleep.  My 2 year old grandson woke up at 1 a.m. and nothing I did to appease him worked…he was up/aggitated until 5 a.m.  My 7 mo. old granddaughter, on the other hand, was happy to ‘settle in’ and ‘snuggle’ in bed with us between bottles.  I slept (well laid) in bed in the clothes I’d worn all day and 24 hours later, I still haven’t had a shower or change of clothes.  Ironically, my Mother-in-law used to tell me ‘these are the best years of your life.’  Amazingly, I learned years later that she was so right!

  • Jerry Swizzlestamps

    My kids are 2 1/2 yrs. and 3 months so I understand completely. I don’t know what the right answer is but we let our kids sleep with us pretty often.  My husband jokes that we should just get a king size bed and all four of us sleep together. I laugh but inside I’m thinking that just might happen.